Protecting Whistleblowers & The Injured

Differences between reporting violations and whistleblowing

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2024 | Whistleblower

When employees decide to report safety violations at work, they may not always know where to go. Under most conditions, it is usually best to tell a supervisor. However, if they think their employer condones or encourages unsafe conditions, they may not feel that doing so is the best course of action.

Railroad workers need to understand the difference between reporting safety violations to a supervisor and becoming a federal whistleblower.

Reporting safety violations

If employees see coworkers doing things that are not safe, they might need to report the situation to an immediate supervisor, as company policy dictates. In places where safety is important, most managers address the problem right away. In this situation, the worker has done his or her part.


Whistleblowing is when a railroad worker tells a third party about a safety violation or other illegal activity. This outside group could be a government agency such as OSHA.

Key differences

Here are some differences between keeping safety problems in the company and telling an outside group:

  • Protection from retaliation: Workers who tell a supervisor about OSHA safety violations have protections under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. But whistleblowers might have more protection under other laws.
  • Nature of the report: Reporting an isolated safety problem usually concerns a specific incident. Whistleblowing can be about many different issues, such as fraud or environmental rules.
  • Potential for reward: Companies sometimes thank workers for pointing out safety problems but they usually do not award money. However, under the False Claims and Dodd-Frank Acts, whistleblowers can receive money in some cases.

There are also other differences between the two choices, such as the long-term consequences of involving a third party.

Knowing the difference between reporting safety problems at work and becoming a whistleblower can help workers choose the right thing to do when they have safety concerns. Before they decide, they should learn about their rights and what the law says they can do.

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